ANKARA, Oct 11 (Reuters) – Turkey, which has historically had contacts with Hamas, is carrying out negotiations aimed at securing the release of civilians held by the militant Palestinian group, a senior Turkish official said on Wednesday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said President Tayyip Erdogan ordered the talks. Erdogan has held phone calls with regional powers this week to convey Ankara’s offer to mediate and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Turkey is carrying out negotiations regarding the civilian prisoners held by Hamas. Upon President Tayyip Erdogan’s orders, the relevant institutions are carrying out a process regarding the civilians held by Hamas,” the person said, without providing further details.
Turkish politicians, including Erdogan, have previously met members of Hamas. There has been no official statement from Ankara about contact with the group since the fighting began.
Scores of Israelis and others from abroad were taken to Gaza as hostages, some of whom were paraded through streets. Both sides have said many women and children were among the dead and wounded.
Turkey, which has backed Palestinians in the past, supports a two-state solution to the conflict and hosts Hamas members. It has been working to repair its ties with Israel after years of acrimony, primarily by focusing on energy cooperation.
Since the fighting began on Saturday, Ankara has called for restraint and urged the protection of civilians in both Israel and Gaza.
It has also warned against the conflict spreading to a wider region, saying the only path to regional peace is through the formation of an independent Palestinian state.
Erdogan on Wednesday also said Israel’s response to Hamas in Gaza amounted to a “massacre“, referring to its blockade cutting off water and electricity to the city and to civilian deaths.
Source : Reuters